‘Red Storm’ Track & Field team volunteers at Calvary’s mission food pantry

Some of the members of the St. John's University "Red Storm" Women’s Track & Field team, pose with Head Coach Guyanese-born, Aliann Pompey, standing in second row, fourth from left (fingers in peace sign), in front of long time friend and colleague, Roger Gary (fourth from left stooping).
Some of the members of the St. John’s University “Red Storm” Women’s Track & Field team, pose with Head Coach Guyanese-born, Aliann Pompey, standing in second row, fourth from left (fingers in peace sign), in front of long time friend and colleague, Roger Gary (fourth from left stooping).
Photo courtesy Roger Gary

The torrential downpour on Saturday, Sept. 23 could not keep away the force of the St. John University Red Storm Woman’s Track & Field and Cross-Country team from carrying out their mission to give back to the community while serving over 500 residents who joined long lines at Calvary’s Mission Food Pantry in Queens.

Wearing rain gears, the diverse group of female students, from as far away as Norway, and parts of the Unites States, like Indiana, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The first batch started from 6 a.m. where they assembled veggies and fruits for distribution.

The second batch handed out dried goods, canned food, and nutritious items like eggs, bread, and treats, putting smiles on the faces of hundreds of clients who appreciated the kind services offered to them.

St. John’s Head Coach, Guyanese-born, award-winning Olympian Aliann Pompey who joined the ladies to hand out food, told Caribbean Life that student-athletes come to St. John’s University expecting to do three things — win, serve, and graduate.

“Service to others in the community is as important as winning on the field of play and as graduating. It’s another way of learning important lessons that you’ll never receive in a classroom.”

She said the team volunteers weekly most of the school year, but this was the first time with Calvary’s Mission Food Pantry. “The conversations among the young ladies after were telling. They found new avenues to explore, learned more about themselves, and what they wanted to do with their lives. It’s always good to gain a new perspective on life and we’re all grateful for having had that experience, said Pompey, Four-time Olympian and former NCAA 400-meter champion.

Pompey, who was named the new director of the St. John’s track and field program in August of 2021 after seven seasons as an assistant coach under Jim Hurt, praised the students for their generous service, quoting,

Brooklyn Chestnut, Team Captain, and Senior from Indiana who said, “It was so nice to be a part of something that gives back to community and the people that make New York, New York.”

“It was really giving to be able to give back to the community, and to see how much it was appreciated. It puts the everyday busy life into perspective,” said Nora Haugen, Sophomore from Norway.

Pompey, who is currently in Switzerland for meetings, in 2019, was named the President of the Panama Sports Athlete Commission. She was elected to represent more than 6,600 athletes across 41 countries that compete in the Pan American Games and has served as a standing member of the Athletes’ Commission since 2015.

She also serves on the organization’s executive board and as an International Olympic Committee’s Athlete Liaison. Pompey is now in her third year as the Metropolitan Athletic Conference president.

Under Pompey’s leadership, the ‘Johnnies’ have earned many Big East Championships, including High Point Performer honors for Tatyana McKenzie in both the 2023 Indoor and Outdoor Big East Championships, Jamora Alves in the 2023 Big East Outdoor Championships and Leah Anderson in the 2022 & 2021 Indoor and Outdoor Big East Championship. Alves also qualified for the 2023 NCAA Track and Field Championships in discus.

Close friend, award-winning fashion designer, Roger Gary who is a staunch volunteer and board member of the twenty plus years Calvary’s Mission, operated by Guyanese national, Tony Singh and his family every Saturday, said he was happy to welcome the track star, and the Red Storm team, noting that it has been years in the making.

Gary said it was ironic that the Red Storm showed up on a ‘stormy” day and applauded their efforts to give back to the community in such an effective way. He looks forward to them returning to continue their mission of service.